Chris Ladish, PhD: championing children’s mental health
Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation has been facing a pediatric mental health crisis. Between 2014 and 2018, Mary Bridge Children’s saw a 400 percent increase in children admitted to the emergency department for a mental health emergency. Primary care pediatricians still report that children with behavioral health needs make up as much as 50 percent of their visits.
Chris Ladish, PhD, chief clinical officer of pediatric behavioral health for Mary Bridge Children’s and MultiCare Behavioral Health Network, has dedicated her career to building and strengthening mental health services for children in need.
Ladish joined Mary Bridge Children’s in 1996 to develop the pediatric neurobehavioral medicine program. Today that program has expanded to serve children with brain injuries, complex neurodevelopmental needs and comorbid medical and psychiatric illness. Five pediatric primary care clinics now have embedded psychiatric services for patients in King, Pierce and Spokane counties.
To address emerging pediatric mental health needs, Ladish joined with colleagues and community members to launch Kids’ Mental Health Pierce County in 2018. The collaborative includes more than 100 leaders and frontline staff. The work of Kids’ Mental Health Pierce County is funded by generous donors to Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation and MultiCare Behavioral Health Foundation and was recently named the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Washington Child and Adolescent program of the year.
With philanthropic support in 2020, Ladish participated in community outreach offering webinars, educational in-services, publishing articles and speaking to media outlets. She spoke on topics such as parenting during a pandemic, understanding and addressing childhood stress and talking to children about protests and violence. Ladish and her neurobehavioral team are also members of an international collaborative that brings resources and expertise to providers struggling to serve children not just locally, but across the globe.
While COVID-19, racial inequality and civil unrest have exacerbated existing mental health issues, Ladish sees a silver lining.
“I'm grateful that we’re talking about mental health challenges in children and discussing this crisis,” she says. “My hope is that we can turn some of that spotlight onto our local pediatric mental health needs and continue to bring resources to kids where and when they need it most.”
In the face of continuing COVID-19 challenges, Ladish and her teams haven’t missed a beat, offering most of their services virtually.
“I'm humbled and inspired by the engagement of all our teams, and the strength with which they roll up their sleeves and keep their eyes on what matters most,” she says. “Kids are at the heart of all we do. It’s why we come to work.”
About The Author
Kortney Scroger is a communication specialist for the MultiCare Foundations. She writes stories that connect readers to the impact of giving. You can reach her at [email protected].More stories by this author